Once on retreat I was reading some traditional text that talked about bliss and special experiences, and I began to feel wretched. I felt poverty stricken about never having had any experiences that felt like bliss, clarity and luminosity. I began to feel depressed that I didn't measure up to any of these glowing words.
Fortunately, I put that book down and picked up something simple about just being alive with who you are right now -- nothing special, no big deal, ordinary: just keep your eyes open, keep your ears open, stay awake. Those simple instructions began to cheer me up, because I felt that I could follow them.
I hope that my friend and fellow blogger am will forgive me for a bit of shameless pilfering from her very fine blog, Talking 37th Dream with Rainbow. Just a few days ago she quoted the following from Thomas Merton:
Do not depend on the hope of results. … you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.
-- Thomas Merton in a letter to Jim Forest dated February 21, 1966, reproduced in The Hidden Ground of Love: Letters by Thomas Merton
There is some important way in which this quotation from Pema Chödrön is beautiful:
At least once a year, I imagine that I am about to die. Looking back as truthfully as I can at my entire life, I give full attention to the things I wish hadn’t occurred. Recognizing these mistakes honestly but without self-recrimination, I try to rejoice in the innate wisdom that allows me to see so bravely, and I feel compassion for how I so frequently messed up. Then I can go forward. The future is wide open, and what I do with it is up to me.
(From the book No Time To Lose)
At first I thought that she was saying she does this once a week. That might be even better?
I came accidentally upon this site offering a Feminine Tao. I'm not entirely sure what to make of it, but its quality seems obvious and its worth equally apparent.
The Feminine Tao is hosted at Early Women Masters. Again, I don't think I really understand the intent or organization of the site. And yet it's so appealing that I think it well worth mentioning here.
Forty-some years I've Lived in the mountains, Ignorant of the world's Rise and fall. Warmed at night by a stove Full of pine needles; Satisfied at noon by a bowl Of wild plants; Sitting on rocks Watching clouds and empty thoughts; Patching my robe in sunlight; Practicing silence Till someone asks Why Bodhidharma came east, And I hang out my wash.
These classic Zen Habits posts are really worthwhile.
Here, for example, is the author on the relationship between focus and goals -
. . . focus is the most important determination of whether you’ll achieve a goal or stick to creating a new habit. Not self-discipline, not rewards, not sheer willpower, not even motivation . . . . If you can maintain your focus on a goal or habit, you will more often than not achieve that goal or create that habit. (Focus)
And on the Four Steps for organizing any part of your home, office or even life -
1. Collect everything in one place.
2. Choose the essential.
3. Eliminate the rest.
4. Organize the remaining stuff neatly and nicely. (Four steps)